Prague mayor points to loophole in system which prevents uninsured residents from getting vaccine

Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib has raised the issue that foreign residents in the Czech Republic, who do not have public health insurance, are not able to register for the COVID-19 vaccine. He urged the Ministry of Health to sort out the situation fast, warning that this could lead to unprotected segments within the population.

There are currently over a thousand signatories of a petition in the Czech Republic calling for a change in the system which would enable foreigners insured abroad to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in the Czech Republic. It warns that the current system is creating a group of second-class citizens.

“They have health insurance, they are legally in the Czech Republic, they are just not insured within the public insurance system. They belong to high-risk groups, yet are denied the access to the vaccine. The embassies have not been able to help them, the Health Ministry keeps saying that 'their registration will be possible in the second phase of the vaccination rollout. That still has not happened.”

On Tuesday, Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib joined the call. Urging the Health Ministry to sort out the situation fast, he warned that there could be unprotected segments of the population, especially in Prague, if the issue remains unresolved.

Zdeněk Hřib | Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

Mr Hřib said that the problem seems to be related to contractual security and the method of payments to hospitals, both of which have not yet been resolved. He said that Prague City Hall is working hard to ensure that the vaccine is available to everyone who asks for it.

According to Interior Ministry statistics, 656,300 foreigners lived in the Czech Republic at the end of the first quarter of 2021. Of this number, 344,300 had temporary residence, while the rest were registered as permanent residents. Public insurance is available to EU and European Economic Community residents, as well as to those nationals with whose countries the Czech Republic has the respective intergovernmental agreement.

The problem seems to lie with those foreigners who have to rely on commercial health insurance, either illegals or those who are registered as self-employed.

For example, Ukraine, one of the largest sources of foreign labour in the Czech Republic, does not have the necessary intergovernmental agreement with Czechia. While those of its citizens who are employed at a company are unlikely to have problems, because public health insurance has to be deducted from their salary by the company to the state, there seems to also be an unknown number of people who use tourist visas, or those who register as self-employed and then get commercial health insurance.

Last year, there were 2,400 illegals discovered in the Czech Republic, according to the State Office for Work Inspection (SUIP).